AUGUSTA, Ga. — “He … ll … ooo?”
That was my wife on Tuesday morning. Our relationship is good, and yes, most of our conversations are more than a word. Sometimes they’re two. But this was not my number that had popped up on her cellphone screen, though she did recognize the city, hence the slight worry.
“So I’m calling from just off the first hole at Augusta,” I said with a laugh.
I tried a friend of mine next. He’s a Masters nut, and he knew I was here.
“Heyyy!” he said.
“So, yeah, there’s a bank of free phones just off the first hole and the scoreboard here,” I said. “And that’s where I’m calling ya from.”
“I have to tell you: I usually don’t pick up any call,” he said. “But if Augusta calls, I don’t care what I’m doing, I’m picking up.”
Cellphones, you’ve probably heard, leave your pocket when you leave your car at the Masters. The Augusta National policy is strict: They’re not allowed. But you’re not completely blocked off here from the ones you care about. Want to check in? Want to brag a little? Want to check the weather? Want to report that the Masters gnome is coming home? As I told my wife and buddy, there are free-to-use phones about 100 yards to the right of the first fairway, with a second batch just to the right of the eighth tee.
One of the best parts? On cellphone caller I.D., the number pops up with “Augusta, GA” as the city; on landline I.D, I was told, calls come up as “Augusta National.”
So I wondered: What were other people talking about from the phones at the Masters?
‘Hi, I’m at the Masters’
“Who did you call?” I asked.
“I called one of my kids,” said Lynn Vosvikian, who’s from just outside of Philadelphia and was at the Masters with her son-in-law, John Plesas, who was on one of the phones when we were talking. “He’s on the phone — his wife just had a baby, which is nice. It’s good to check in. And I made a business call. It’s wonderful. This is a great setup. Because I was wondering how they were going to provide a service for people. I kept looking around, and this was a very nice setup, easy.”
“What did you say?” I asked.
“Hi, I’m at the Masters,” Lynn said. “Because that’s the most exciting thing when you come in, to hear people, ‘Welcome to the Masters.’”
“To be completely honest,” I said, “yesterday was my first day out here. And so when I saw these phones, I was like, I’m going to call my wife right now. ‘Hey, I’m on the 1st hole.’”
I want to make more calls. I’m at the Masters. Just to tell people you were at the Masters.
“I want to make more calls,” Lynn said. “I’m at the Masters. Just to tell people you were at the Masters. Anyway, this is our first time here. Very exciting to be here especially because yesterday it was a washout.”
John hung up. A few minutes earlier, I overheard him tell his wife — Lynn’s daughter — he could spend “$10,000 in the gift shop.”
“Oh my, god, you could easily spend $10,000 in there,” John said.
“He wants to go back,” Lynn said.
After their calls, they walked to the first hole.
“I like the no phones,” John said. “I’d love to call my wife all day, but it’s nice, you know what I mean. You’re not looking at your phone.”
“You can really focus,” Lynn said. “We left our watch at home, everything. Nobody’s been electronic free for like years.”
“You know how many people would be bumping into each other?” John said. “Because I work at the airport and everybody is just walking into each other and all that.”
Your gnomes are on the way!
“Who did you call?” I asked Beth Varner and her daughter Judith Varner, who are from Augusta.
“Some friends of ours we got gnomes for,” Beth said.
“I think it’s like 8 o’clock in the morning,” I said. “Did you wake them up?”
“Well, one of them is in California,” Beth said. “So I had to leave a message.”
“So that’s like 5 o’clock,” I laughed.
“She didn’t answer her phone,” Beth said. “But the other one, she was already awake, so …”
“Have you made phone calls to friends and family before from here?” I asked
I told here it was her wake-up call from Augusta National, and I have their gnome.
“No, this is the first time we actually used them,” Beth said. “They say it shows up Augusta National on the caller I.D.”
“I called my wife from here yesterday,” I confessed. “And she did not recognize the phone number at all. ‘It’s me, I’m calling from the first hole.’”
“I told here it was her wake-up call from Augusta National, and I have their gnome,” Beth said.
“Were they surprised?” I asked.
“Yes!” Judith said.
“She’s likely really,” Beth said. “Yep. Except for the one who’s still sleeping in California.”
“She’ll wake up with the message so she’ll be good to go,” Judith said.
After their calls, they walked to the first hole.
“Who did you call?” I asked Wayne Christie of Winston-Salem, N.C.
“My wife,” Wayne said.
He was in a hurry on Wednesday. And understandably so.
“What did she tell you?” I asked.
“She said it’s supposed to start showering about 12:30,” Wayne said.
“Go out of here then. Sorry!”
After his call, he walked to the first hole.
‘It reminds me of being a kid’
“Who did you call?” I asked Sarah Lanier and her husband, Hal Lanier, of Cumming, Ga.
“Our daughter,” Hal said. “She was feeling unwell. So we were checking in on her.”
“When your daughter picks up the phone and she sees caller I.D. from Augusta, Georgia,” I asked, “she probably knows you’re out here, but is thinking who is this?”
“I called my sister, who was babysitting her, and it took three times to call her just because she was screening the call,” Hal said. “Then when she picked up, she knew.”
“Yeah, it was like, mommy, can I talk to mommy?” Sarah said.
“It is kind of a little awkward these days to unplug like that, to leave the cellphone at home,” I said.
I think there’s tons of awe and wonder that surrounds us all the time that we miss it because our face is in the phone.
“It’s not awkward,” Hal said.
“It reminds me of being a kid, right?” Sarah said. “Because you didn’t have the opportunity to pick up your phone and be like, where are we going to find — you know, we ran into our friend’s boss that he knew was going to be here, but you don’t know where you’re going to see them. You just hope that you do. But we can expecting to see people we knew. We’re like, we’re going to see people we know coming in here.”
“My observation is it allows me to be fully present,” Hal said. “I think there’s tons of awe and wonder that surrounds us all the time that we miss it because our face is in the phone. I mean, these beautiful trees, the outfits people are wearing, the flags flying.”
“Or how many people are here and it’s quiet,” Sarah said. “That’s what I keep thinking. I’m like, there’s so many people out here and it’s quiet.”